When Greta met Russell … becoming a reluctant leader

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I recently watched a 30-minute interview of Greta Thunberg by the British comedian Russell Howard. One of those lazy afternoons in early winter when its too wet to go out, surfing across YouTube with my liberal and opiniated (so proud!) daughter.

I know Greta Thunberg provokes “Marmite” reactions in a lot of people. I’ll be upfront and say I’m a fan, but even if you aren’t don’t look away now, bear with me on this…

I’ve been a long-time watcher and admirer of what Greta has been doing in raising awareness of the climate emergency, and remain to this day flabbergasted at the negative reactions to what she stands for which tends to come from (as you’ll hear in the video) the “classic establishment white middle-aged man” in power.

If you can, watch the video, if not here’s my take.

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For those of you not aware, Greta Thunberg is autistic, a part of the neurodiversity spectrum that is, thankfully, being more and more discussed openly and positively in the world of work.

An autistic 19 year old Swedish college student…. yet exhibits more of the qualities and behaviours of leadership than… well .. where do I start.. UK politics, US politics, pretty much any sphere of public leadership at the moment!

Here’s a list of the characteristics I see in Greta that are – I personally believe - sorely lacking in our public leadership discourse

  • Bravery/Courage
  • Humility
  • Vulnerability
  • Passion
  • Commitment
  • Authenticity
  • A clear goal
  • Understanding limitations
  • Knowing when to ask for help and support

What is your passion and laser-focus?

You can argue with me on whether passion and commitment are lacking in public leadership (and I might accede), but I’ll argue back that if its not directed towards a meaningful, unifying goal, but towards a diverging and divisive one, then it’s not adding value!

So, back to the title. Where do these characteristics stem from? In Greta’s case, it is an intense passion for the future of our planet that her generation (and beyond) will inherit and caretake for humanity. I see her neurodiversity allowing her to be absolutely laser-focused on this goal to the exclusion of peripheral distractions. Watch the video and realise the personal behavioural challenges she has had to overcome to get her message out and listen to how she has completely taken on the level of hate and dissent she has faced and turned it back round. Now think about applying just some of those elements to your everyday professional and leadership roles …

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What is your passion and laser-focus? Do you have the skills and capabilities to pursue that goal? If not, how do you get them? Is that passion and focus in your professional life or elsewhere? Do you have work-life balance.. or do you just have balance (keep an eye on the website, I’ll be talking about balance in a future blog)?

Whichever side of the Greta-Marmite debate you land, there’s still a message here to takeaway ….

Passion, focus, and be yourself.

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